Scotland politics

Christine Grahame says SNP MSPs 'should challenge government'

Christine Grahame
Image caption Christine Grahame has been an SNP MSP since the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999

A senior SNP MSP has called on her fellow backbenchers to do more to hold the Scottish government to account.

Christine Grahame said too few of the party's MSPs were willing to take on the government as whips are "too good at their job".

And she said members of the ruling party could do more to hold a government to account than the opposition.

Ms Grahame is a deputy presiding officer in the Scottish Parliament.

She was responding to a speech to international economists at Holyrood by Alice Rivlin, first director of the US Congressional Budget Office.

Ms Rivlin was discussing the challenges faced by independent fiscal bodies in the era of President Donald Trump and "fake news".

'Loyalty and discipline'

During her keynote address, Ms Rivlin told the conference: "One might think that it would be easier for a president to win battles with Congress if his own political party had a majority in both chambers, and sometimes that's true.

"But party loyalty and discipline have not been strong features of American democracy, unlike many of the parliaments you come from, as President Donald Trump is in the process of discovering."

Ms Grahame, the MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, responded: "What you said about the Republicans in Congress not always working en bloc, I have to say I'd like to see more of that in Scotland.

"We're a very small parliament and we tend to find that the whips are too good at their job and there are too few - I'm one of them, I have to praise myself - backbenchers who are prepared to take on their government.

"And it's really backbenchers or members of the ruling party that can bring their government to account more than any opposition."

'Political tribalism'

She said the possibility of a second independence referendum is likely to lead to "political tribalism and fewer examples of being able to work together" in Scotland.

The conference took place following the launch of the independent Scottish Fiscal Commission, which will produce the country's official economic and fiscal forecasts.

In her speech, Ms Rivlin warned the new body faced "trying times" at a time of "falsehood, fake news and high tolerance for unverified claims".

She said: "Independent budget officials and parliamentary budgeteers are caught in the middle of this trying to do their jobs, produce accurate, relevant estimates and projections and keep the nation's fiscal house in order.

"It's hardest for the newcomers who have not yet established a track record and gained the respect of contending politicians and the public."

But she added: "I have faith that providing the good information to elected representatives that you are all providing is still the best formula for good public policy making."